Sunday, February 24, 2008

NBC Dismisses Fall Debuts

It soon may be time to retire the phrase “fall television season.”

NBC Universal took a big step toward undoing one of the television industry’s oldest traditions by announcing Tuesday that it would move to a year-round schedule of staggered program introductions. The move is intended to appeal to advertisers, who crave fresh content to keep viewers tuned in.

And if it succeeds — and leads other broadcast networks to shift from their focus on a mass introduction of new shows — it could alter an American cultural cycle that extends all the way back to the days of radio, when families gathered around the Philco every September, as the school year began, to sample the new entertainment choices.

“We absolutely think this is going to change the industry,” said Michael Pilot, the head of sales for NBC.

The industry changed a few years ago when cable TV adopted this technique which is a copy of the British style of programming. NBC is pretending to have invented it.

One problem the networks continue to have is their strategy of copycat programming instead of innovation. Too many doctor shows, too many law shows. Medium begets the Ghost Whisperer.

Another problem is their insistence of stretching the material into 22 episodes a year versus 13 on cable. I think this alone results in better considered plots and resolutions on cable. The Sopranos stretched their last season into 2 parts and 21 episodes and the first half of that season was entirely throw away, much like certain story lines in other shows.

The third problem for networks is people can watch shows in so many ways now. I never see an advertiser. I'll watch TV mostly on DVD or time shift to Tivo out the commercials. Reality shows and sports are the last vestige of water cooler talk. Everything else is at the consumer's convenience.

People want what they want, when they want it, and at a price they are willing to pay. The old Network TV model forced consumers to chase them. Technology has evened the playing field. Network TV must serve the viewer in order to survive.

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